“Under The Skin”, “The Zero Theorem” and year in summary

September 07, 2013

This week saw the premieres of two movies I’ve worked on in the last year, so I thought I’d post an update about these and some other recent projects.


The movie making headlines is Under The Skin, which made its debut at Venice Film Festival. The excitement has been a combination of factors – it’s director Jonathan Glazer’s first film in nearly a decade and it stars Scarlett Johansson, taking a role that is a long way from her recent Hollywood studio films. The premier also gives the newspapers a great excuse to splash glamorous photos of Scarlet over their front pages – and I have to admit it makes VFX work a lot more pleasant if your star is so pleasing on the eye.
The story is a mix of horror / thriller, that plays on interesting themes about the nature of humanity. Despite our beautiful alien protagonist preying on humans and despatching them in some pretty awful ways, she becomes more empathic as the human characters become more detestable as the film goes on.
I worked with One Of Us for around 6 months on the VFX. It was great to work closely alongside Jonathan casting his meticulous eyes over the shots. It was probably some of the toughest VFX work I have done to date – lots of very long, locked off, close-up shots with nowhere to hide. When you are having to track skin stretching and counter track CG renders to match, you would hope for at least some camera shake or quick cuts to help, but with this you could stare at every pore on display. At this point I can say little more, but will certainly be posting breakdowns in my Projects page next year once everything is cleared.


The second movie premiering at Venice is The Zero Theorem, directed by Terry Gilliam. I worked briefly with Lenscare FX on a sequence in which Christoph Waltz character is haunted by visions of a black hole. Again this was a chance to work with a director who’s work I had admired for years – Terry’s mind has incredible creative processes few can fathom!

There are a few more films that I’ve been involved with over the last year that I never added to the Portfolio section, so I will briefly summarise them here.


When I joined One Of Us last summer this was in the final stages of completion. Not hugely complex work – a lot of green screen background inserts for the many driving scenes and a few set extensions when Colin Firth is trapped on an elevated balcony.


Whilst working at MPC Bangalore I was training the compositing team up to take on this as their first show. During the handover to VFX supervisor David Griffiths I ended up working on a couple of shots myself- just some split screen work to get a cheetah in the same shots as the movies stars.


After returning to the UK I spent 3 months at Double Negative working on this movie. Not a franchise that I had previously had any interest in, but I have to begrudgingly admit to being surprisingly entertained by Fast 5.

I was impressed with how much was done as practical effects in the movie – I had wrongly assumed that the VFX work would involve lots of CG car crashes. Instead I worked on the ridiculous end sequence where a group of cars race down a runway, shooting harpoons into an Antonov cargo plane and cause it to crash. All of the wide shots were achieved with impressive stunt driving, but the closeups of our heros jumping and fighting on the backs of speeding vehicles were shot in a studio. The shots I worked on involved making the green screen shoot feel like it took place at 150mph on a dark runway with a fully CG plane taking off behind them.


Just finished this project at Framestore and was very excited about working on it. Robots and explosions – that certainly ticked a lot of VFX boxes for me! More about this project after its release.

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